Part I: Naturalization and Good Moral Character: The Statutory Period and Beyond
Information for this series of articles is taken from the USCIS Adjudicators Field Manual (AFM). The manual provides guidelines to the immigration officer (AKA the adjudicator) who conducts interviews and reviews applications submitted by permanent residents seeking citizenship through naturalization. The manual is an excellent source of information for those seeking an immigration benefit from the USCIS.
I.What is Good Moral Character (GMC)?
Unlike a criminal statute that consists of legal elements, there are no specific elements that define good moral character for the purpose of an immigration proceeding. Good moral character is commonly interpreted to mean that your behavior must meet the moral standard of the average citizen. In naturalization proceedings it is an absolute requirement that you demonstrate GMC.
II.GMC during the Statutory Period of 5 Years:
The Permanent Resident will be required to demonstrate GMC for a minimum statutory period of the 5 continuous years preceding submission of an application to become a naturalized citizen. This is commonly referred to as the statutory period.
III. GMC Beyond the Statutory Period:
When the Adjudicator finds that the applicant for naturalization committed acts demonstrating a lack of GMC outside of the statutory period, and has not shown rehabilitation or a change in behavior during the statutory period, the adjudicator has discretion whether to find a lack of GMC and deny the application for that reason.
Consideration of the applicant’s conduct and acts outside the statutory period is specifically sanctioned by law if the applicant’s conduct during the statutory period does not reflect reform of character or the earlier conduct is relevant to the applicant’s present moral character. See section 316(e) of the Immigration andNationality Act (the Act) and 8 CFR 316.10(a)(2). USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual.
IV. Good Moral Character after the Interview and before the Ceremony:
Be aware that the permanent resident is not home free if the adjudicator has approved his/her application at the interview. You are not a Naturalized United States Citizen until AFTER you have been sworn in at a ceremony. Any act that demonstrates a lack of GMC during the period between the interview and the ceremony may result in the revocation of the adjudicator’s decision and your naturalization may be denied.
The investigation into the applicants GMC is broad and can span many years. The investigation will continue right up until the permanent resident is sworn in to become a naturalized citizen. Even after the permanent resident has naturalized the status can be revoked if it is discovered that you have concealed a matter, lied, or committed fraud in order to obtain the naturalization.
The author’s purpose in Part I of this series was to convince the reader of the importance of Good Moral Character in seeking naturalization. Hopefully you are convinced and you will read on. In Part II we will discuss acts that demonstrate a lack of GMC.